A senior Iranian diplomat says the Islamic Republic is seriously pursuing the fate of Iran’s former ambassador to Lebanon who remains unaccounted for after the tragic September 24 crush in Mina, Saudi Arabia.
“The [Iranian] Foreign Ministry is seriously pursuing the fate of Ghazanfar Roknabadi, the missing diplomat in the Mina catastrophe in Saudi Arabia, because he was a well-known figure in the region,” Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Qashqavi said on Monday.
The crush took place after two large masses of pilgrims fused at a crossroads in Mina, a few kilometers east of the holy city of Mecca, on their way to participate in the symbolic stoning of Satan in Jamarat.
Saudi Arabia claims nearly 770 people were killed in the incident, but officials with Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization say about 4,700 people, including 464 Iranians, lost their lives in the tragedy.
Commenting on the possibility of Roknabadi’s abduction in Saudi Arabia and his transfer to the occupied Palestinian territories, Qashqavi said that the issue was a speculation, adding that such a claim can be neither confirmed nor rejected.
He noted that the time and location of the Mina stampede, circumstances as well as individuals who were accompanying Roknabadi before he went missing do not confirm the likelihood of his abduction.
It is possible that those who are still missing in the tragic incident could be among the dead, or wounded, the Iranian diplomat said.
He added that it is even possible that certain Iranian pilgrims were arrested.
On September 28, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham described as “incorrect” and "hasty" reports claiming that Saudi authorities have no official record on the entry of Roknabadi to the kingdom for performing Hajj rituals. She said that the Iranian ministry has documents showing that Riyadh had approved an ordinary Hajj visa for the missing diplomat.
The bodies of 218 Iranian victims have so far been returned to the country by two separate flights.
The bodies of the remaining victims, some of whom have not been identified yet, are kept in cold storage facilities in Mecca and Jeddah.
Iran says Saudi Arabia’s incompetence in handling the safety at the rituals caused the deadly incident. Saudi Arabia denies this.